Don't let Vail's small size or remote location fool you: This is one of the most beloved cold-weather destinations in the country for one reason: skiing. Sandwiched between the Gore Mountain Range to the north and the Sawatch Mountain Range to the south, this narrow valley is home to several notable ski areas, including one of the country's largest single-mountain resorts. Jagged peaks, miles of slopes and perfect powder attract thousands of visitors every year, earning Vail a noteworthy place among Colorado's other winter heavyweights, Aspen and Telluride. In fact, Vail's expertly manicured slopes – as well as its luxury hotels, spas and restaurants – frequently welcome A-listers like Will Smith, Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake.
That being said, this is a hard city for those on a shoestring budget. The gorgeous scenery is accompanied by bank-busting hotel rates and lift tickets. The only way to avoid these prices is to sidestep the slopes, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Visit during the summer and you'll discover a variety of ways to enjoy the mountains, from hiking and biking to horseback riding and even whitewater rafting.
The best times to visit Vail are December to March and June to September. However, December through March marks the ski season, and as such, you can expect to encounter crowds and exorbitant hotel rates. The summer months are becoming an increasingly popular time to visit, and the prices this time of year are fairly reasonable. For the best deals on hotels, consider a visit during the shoulder seasons; however, melting snow can put a damper on a spring visit, while chilly weather can easily freeze autumn exploration.
Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center
When you're ready to refuel after a day on the slopes, you'll have plenty of dining options to choose from, no matter your budget. You'll find a handful of eateries on the mountain (at Vail Ski Resort and Beaver Creek), but you'll likely pay a premium for the convenience and the views. Plus, you'd miss out on the local hot spots.
Before you head to the mountain, grab a hearty breakfast at The Little Diner (try the German pancakes) or Northside Coffee & Kitchen (beloved for its doughnuts). When you're ready for a casual lunch or dinner, Mountain Standard and Alpenrose are two local and visitor favorites. If you're in the mood to treat yourself to a gourmet experience, Vail has you covered there, too. Places like Elway's, Sweet Basil, Matsuhisa, La Tour Restaurant and WYLD (located in The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch) are all worth the splurge, according to recent visitors.
And, of course, no Vail vacation would be complete without enjoying the après-ski scene. Whether you're looking for a casual tavern, a sophisticated wine bar or a craft brewery, you'll find it in Vail and surrounding towns. For beer, the Vail Ale House and Crazy Mountain Brewing Company (located in nearby Edwards) both earn high marks, while Root & Flower is a hit for its wine, cocktails and trendy atmosphere. If you're on the hunt for a local watering hole, head to Bart & Yeti's or the Dusty Boot Saloon.
The best way to get around Vail is via public transportation. In fact, the village's shuttle service is the only thing you can count on to be affordable. There is also a regional bus service connecting Vail to other nearby towns like Beaver Creek. You can also rent a car, which will come in handy if you're looking to explore some of the region's parks like The Holy Cross Wilderness Area or the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area. Car rentals are available at the Eagle County Regional Airport (EGE), which is located approximately 36 miles west of the resort area. You can also choose to fly into Denver International Airport (DEN), located 120 miles east. If you're arriving into Denver, consider taking the Colorado Mountain Express, which provides scheduled shuttle services from the airport directly to Vail.See details for Getting Around
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